The new Juliana Wilder which promises to deliver both confidence on the descents and a flagrant disregard for gravity on the climbs.

Down-country bikes have been one of America’s coolest exports for a few years now, combining short travel with relaxed geometry to create a new sub- niche of XC bikes that rip (or trail bikes that pedal). The Juliana Wilder joins pocket rockets like the Transition Spur, Specialized Epic Evo and Mondraker F-Podium.

Read more: Best short-travel ‘down-country’ mountain bikes

Juliana Wilder need to know

  • Remember Superlight? The name used to belong to a short-travel XC bike, but has been repurposed for Santa Cruz’s new flexstay suspension.
  • Three bottle cage mounts, two full carbon frame options and one lifetime warranty.
  • 289g lighter than the outgoing Blur, at 10.9kg (24lb) in size large for the Wilder X01 AXS TR RSV.
  • 29in carbon-fibre down-country bike with Superlight suspension and 115mm travel.
  • Features new Reserve 28 XC wheelset on the top-end X01 CC model

The Wilder is part of a new three-bike line-up from Santa Cruz – including a new Santa Cruz Blur – with all models sharing the same frame and rolling on 29in wheels. The Blur is a full-suspension XC bike with 100mm travel front and rear, while the Wilder and Blur TR are more trail-bike orientated – the shock stroke has been extended to deliver 115mm travel, and it’s matched to a 120mm fork.

Most exciting though, Juliana and Santa Cruz have gone with a different suspension layout for the bikes, and it’s not VPP. So no counter-rotating links this time around. Instead there’s something new, called Superlight suspension, where the bikes use a single-pivot, swing-link-driven shock and flexstay to save weight. And Santa Cruz/Juliana has done this while retaining the familiar look of the previous model and a typically anorexic profile. The full carbon frame not only saves weight, but allows the engineers to optimise the flex characteristics around the seatstays, making them slender enough to bow as the suspension compresses. This is home turf for Juliana and Santa Cruz – the brands boast arguably the best- made dark stuff in the bike world, and as usual you can spec the bikes in both top-end CC and basic C carbon.

What’s the Wilder been designed for then? With space for three water bottles (two inside the front triangle, one clinging on under the down tube) and the lightest design possible while still maintaining stiffness and mod cons like a dropper post and decent tyres, the bike is squarely aimed at all-day rides. Adventures that take you into the hills and mountains, bucket-list rides that demand as much daylight as possible, and evenings exploring straight from your door. Mountain biking, then.

Geometry-wise, the Wilder backs up those claims. The head angle, at 67.1°, is a few degrees slacker than the Blur from last year, partly thanks to the longer fork, while the effective seat tube angle hovers around the 75° mark, depending on the sizes. There are just three sizes to pick from – small, medium or large – although the Blur is available in XL, and there are size-specific chainstays, meaning all the bikes in the range should have the same balance and ride feel. Rightly or wrongly, Juliana has a slightly more limited range of sizes, skewed towards the more popular options.

Now let’s talk money. Being a Juliana, the Wilder isn’t cheap. A frame and shock costs £3,299, then there are three C carbon models to pick from, ranging from £4,499 for the C R TR model with a RockShox SID RL fork, to £6,299 for the C XT TR with Fox Step Cast 34 Performance Elite and XT drivetrain. Then there are two lighter CC carbon models, X01 TR at £6,999 and X01 AXS TR RSV at £8,299 – both come with SRAM X01 drivetrains but the top-end bike also has the wireless AXS upgrade and carbon wheels.

Down-country: XC’s boisterous big brother (and sister)

Down-country or XC?

What is a down-country bike, and do you really want one? Good question. And probably yes, in that order. That’s the short answer. The long answer goes something like this: XC bikes typically have 80-100mm travel and are built to optimise low weight and high speed above all else, meaning they have quick-rolling tyres and don’t usually sport dropper posts. Down- country bikes have perhaps 20mm more travel and more relaxed geometry – a 65-67° head angle is about right. They sacrifice a little of that XC speed for grippier and tougher tyres, like the Maxxis Rekon with 3C compound here on the Wilder, and dropper posts. Do you want one? Likely yes, according to the N+1 formula, where N is the number of bikes you currently own.